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Using iWork as an image editor

Sang Tang

I recently noted the image-editing functionality of, which can act as a "good enough" image editor for many that don't have access to Photoshop. While it's difficult to argue with the free price tag, Preview is not without its limitations. Fortunately, many of these limitations are unlocked if you happen to own Apple's iWork suite, which in its own right can serve as an image editor for the budget-minded.Read on to see how to use iWork in this unconventional way.

The three components of iWork -- Pages, Keynote and Numbers -- each serve different purposes. Pages is an alternative to Microsoft Word, and Keynote and Numbers can be seen as respective alternatives to Microsoft's PowerPoint and Excel. Despite their respective core competencies, each app has page layout functionality. And this page layout capability serves as canvas of sorts, providing you a space to edit your images. Among these editing features are the ability to add or manipulate:

  • Text Boxes
  • Shapes
  • Shadows
  • Angle-based image rotation
  • Reflections
  • Opacity
  • Instant Alpha

Although Pages, Keynote and Numbers are separate apps, the image editing functionality within each is nearly identical; in fact, I haven't been able to spot the differences, if indeed they do exist. For the purpose of this demo, I'm going to choose the Page Layout template in Pages. However, if you choose Keynote, you'll want to delete the preset text boxes that will accompany the first slide. Likewise, if you choose Numbers, choose the blank spreadsheet, and then delete the table in the first spreadsheet.

Here I am in Pages's page layout view with a stock photo of Apple's MacBook Pro line taken from Apple's website. I'd like to add some copy to accompany the image. To do this, I'll need to click on the Text Box button on the menu bar; alternatively, I could add text within a shape via the Shapes button.

Perhaps this image would look a bit nicer with a shadow and reflection. To do this, I just need to select the image and enable Shadow and Reflection on the menu bar. But if I want more granular control of shadows and reflections, as well as other attributes (such as image opacity and the angle of the image), I can get to them by clicking on the Inspector button and clicking on the Graphic Inspector pane within it.

That's more like it. I think I'm done.

Like Preview and iPhoto, you can adjust other image attributes (such as saturation, contrast and exposure) via the Adjust Image palette. this is accessible on the menu via View > Adjust Image.

Now that I'm complete with my editing, I'll need to save it as an image. Since selecting Save within Pages, Keynote, or Numbers will result in the image getting saved in the respective native file formats of those apps, I'll need to move this image over to Preview. To do this, select all of the elements in the newly edited picture and click on copy. Then launch Preview and select New from Clipboard from the FIle menu. This will bring all of the elements over to Preview as a flattened image. Alternatively, one can choose to export the document as a PDF, cropping it in Preview, and saving it as your desired image format.

As with many Apple products, the UI plays a major role in making for a more pleasurable experience. This ethos is certainly evident across the iWork suite, resulting in a very similar and seamless workflow within all three apps. Hence, I was able to illustrate the image editing features just using Pages.

By no means is iWork a replacement for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Pixelmator. But for the $79 price tag of iWork, you certainly get much more than just an office productivity suite.

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